Prophet Muhammad’s display of love during animosity and warfare: A lesson for the world

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Last Updated on 19th May 2022

Ali Fatty, Student, Jamia Ahmadiyya International, Ghana
Masjid al-Nabawi, the mosque initially built by the Holy Prophetsa and his Companionsra in the city of Medina

It sounds strange and inconceivable to show love to your enemy in warfare and animosity. To some, that is insanity. In fact, a short perusal of the history of wars reveals that most countries will always want total annihilation of enemy groups and opponent countries at every opportunity.

For example, during the current invasion of Russia in Ukraine, news stories report that Russian militaries are destroying life-supporting social facilities in Ukraine in the pretext of war – even though this is against the Geneva Convention.

United Nations agencies for Human Rights Watch issued a statement in condemnation of the actions of the Russian troops in Ukraine. It stated: “UN agencies on Sunday called for an immediate ceasefire and an end to attacks on healthcare professionals and facilities in Ukraine, which have killed a dozen people, describing them as acts of ‘unconscionable cruelty.’” (www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220313-un-agencies-condemn-attacks-on-health-care-in-ukraine)

Yet, what’s so alarming is that this has long been the modus operandi of many countries in war times. 

Another example in history is when “in 1347 Mongol soldiers catapulted plague-infested corpses over the walls of a besieged city to infect and thereby kill off the inhabitants, and in 1763 British troops passed blankets infected with smallpox among Native American tribes, who were then wiped out by a terrible epidemic”. (www.reviewofreligions.org/38456/advanced-biological-weapons-vs-nationwide-cyber-attack/)

Conversely, Islam has taught that Muslims must always remain committed to the ethics of war and in no circumstances does Islam allow them to trespass these limits. History furnishes not a single example whereby Muslims – since the era of Prophet Muhammadsa until the Khulafa-e-Rashidun – went for an expedition or war (in defence) and they betrayed these limits. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa of Islam himself observed this in his practical life.

Moreover, the Prophet Muhammadsa did not just follow the rules of war but even went so far as to exhibit love during warfare with the Meccan enemies of Islam, who were hellbent on killing Muslims. The Holy Prophetsa and the Muslims suffered 13 years of incessant persecution at the hands of the Quraish people of Mecca during early Islam.

Even after the infidels of Mecca forcefully made the Muslims migrate from their homeland, the Quraish still pursued them and forced them to fight in the battle of Badr and Uhud. Nevertheless, even then, the Holy Prophetsa never abandoned the act of showing mercy and being compassionate to fellow kith and kin.

Once, while the Muslims were returning from the Battle of Uhud, Abu Sufyan bin Harb gave a challenge to the Muslims to meet at Badr for war again. The Holy Prophetsa accepted this challenge. In the following year, in four Hijra, at the end of the month of Shawwal, the Holy Prophetsa set out from Medina with 1,500 weak and unskilled companions with meagre weapons to confront the outrageous and wretched people of Quraish of Mecca. (The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets, Vol. 2, p. 386)

The Holy Prophetsa appointed Hazrat Abdullahra bin Abdullah bin Ubayy as the Amir of Medina behind him for the period of this expedition. 

From the enemies’ site, Abu Sufyan bin Harb also set out from Mecca with an army of the Quraish, consisting of 2,000 skilled and fortified men with superior weapons. Abu Sufyan’s heart was full of fear and ill intention against the Muslims – despite the fact that they were somewhat victorious against the Muslims in Uhud, he decided to gather a large army before he could go out to the battlefield to confront the Muslims.

Abu Sufyan, before departing with his troops for the battle, sent a man to Medina by the name Na‘im to purposely scare and fabricate unfounded stories to the Muslims so that they do not set out for war. This man came to Medina with fabricated stories that the Quraish were preparing for this war with enthusiasm and strength and that it was better for Muslims to withdraw. Due to this, some Muslims of weak disposition started to show fear of participating in the expedition. However, the Holy Prophetsa encouraged the Muslims to participate and stated:

“We have already accepted the challenge of the Quraish and we have promised to set out on this occasion; therefore, we cannot turn back. Even if I am required to go alone, I shall go and stand firm in the face of the enemy.” (The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets, Vol. 2, p. 387)

This address of the Holy Prophetsa removed all sorts of anxiety and fear in the hearts of the Muslims due to the sinister conspiracy of Abu Sufyan through Na‘im. The Holy Prophetsa, as the commander-in-chief of the Muslim army, set out with 1,500 companions and reached Badr as promised by both parties. Nevertheless, Abu Sufyan came out with 2,000 Meccans to some distance, then decided to retreat and addressed his army stating:

“This year the famine is very severe, and people are facing financial difficulty. Therefore, it is not wise to fight at this time. We shall attack Medina with greater preparation when a time of affluence is at hand.” (The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets, Vol. 2, p. 387)

When the Muslims became aware that Abu Sufyan and his troops had retreated to Mecca, the Muslims stayed in Badr for eight days and participated in trade with the indigenous people. After the eight days had passed and the Meccans did not come, the Holy Prophetsa commanded the Muslim army to return to Medina.

The famine that struck Mecca continued for a while; both the poor and the rich were not saved from its repercussions. When the Holy Prophetsa received knowledge of this, as an act of compassion, he sent some silver to the less fortunate of Mecca. (The Life & Character of the Seal of Prophets, Vol. 2, p. 405)

Moreover, this compassionate act of the Holy Prophetsa vividly shows that he was only an enemy of the false doctrines that were found within the people and the religions, which he was always ready to obliterate at all times without fear and delay.

Another incident is also secured in historic accounts. Mecca was struck by famine for a second time. Due to the severity of the famine, Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Quraish of Mecca, presented himself before the Holy Prophetsa and represented the Quraish who sought the Prophet’s prayers for deliverance from the famine. Abu Sufyan stated:

“O Muhammad! You order people to obey Allah and keep good relations with kith and kin. No doubt the people of your tribe are dying, so please invoke Allah for them.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Istisqa)

This act of the Meccans sending Abu Sufyan bin Harb on their behalf requesting the Holy Prophetsa to pray for them indicates that they wholeheartedly accepted the righteous nature of the Holy Prophetsa and his close relationship with Allah the Almighty. However, it was their selfish egos, arrogance and the teachings of Islam being in contrast to their idolatrous practices that stopped them from accepting him as a true prophet of Allah. 

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